As recent times have shown, a lot can change in the space of a year. Given that premise, we could expect a much greater amount of change in the space of four years. But does that hold true when it comes to rodent control?

For the last four years, QA magazine has teamed with Senestech to produce an annual State of the Market Report on Rodent Control in the Food Industry. With many of the questions remaining the same each year, we are able to take a look back at the year-to-year trends to determine if and how rodent presence and industry perspectives have changed — and what that means related to rodent control.

An interesting marker of change through the years is the respondents’ perspective on the rodents that are of most concern in their facilities. Throughout the years, the top rodent species of concern has been mice, but in 2020, the gap between the top concern (mice, 46%) and respondents stating that no rodents were of high concern (34%) were significantly reduced — to a difference of only 12%. Prior to that, the closest variation between respondents citing a rodent species as being greatest concern and those citing no rodent as being of great concern was 48% in 2017. (Table 1)

The reason for this dramatic decrease can likely be explained by the significant change in percent of respondents who had seen rodents in or near their facility. While nearly all respondents (95%) stated that rodents had been seen in/near their facility in 2017, only 52% did in 2020. The intervening years saw a somewhat gradual progression toward this, although 2018 and 2019 were statistically equivalent. (Table 2)

If judged by the results of the survey, however, those few rodents that were seen still were able to cause infestations. While few saw an increase in infestations since the previous year, the response that the number of infestations had “stayed the same” since the previous year was consistently the highest response. Additionally, fewer respondents saw infestations as having decreased in 2020 (13%) than in 2017 (39%). (Table 3) While the COVID-19 challenges of 2020 could have had some impact on this, it also causes us to wonder what responses would have looked like in 2016 had a similar survey been conducted then.

With all this variation, however, respondent concern about the damage that rodents can cause remained relatively the same through the years. In each year’s survey, the highest percent of respondents saw food contamination as being of greatest concern, while the fewest responded that they had no concerns about rodent damage. The one outlier in responses of the four years was the switch between numbers ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in 2020. Whereas customer concern had come in second in 2017-2019, inspection/audit citations tied for first in 2020, with customer concerns ranking third.

In the following pages, we focus in on the rodent activity and prevention and control programs of 2020 to see if we can shed some light on what was, in so many other areas of business and life as well, a unique and challenging year.